One version of the crime in ‘Troubled Blood’ comes from someone with a very warped perception of what happened. Do crime novels need unreliable narrators?
J K Rowling’s answer was that “crime novels gain from having witnesses who do not perfectly recall, because that’s real life. People tend to remember things that interest them.”
In preparation for the Book of the Week and my presentation of ‘Troubled Blood’, I visited Clerkenwell. For those who have not read the book, yet, Clerkenwell is the most important location for the latest Strike’s investigation. Forty years ago, a doctor, Margot Bamborough, disappeared from her surgery in Clerkenwell. She was supposed to meet a friend, Oonagh Kennedy, at the nearby pub – The Three Kings, but never arrived.
As lockdown is lifting, shops and pubs opening, it would be quite probable that the filming of ‘Troubled Blood’ has started.
True or not true, I do not know, but I can definitely inform you that I recorded some “suspicious” activities in Clerkenwell, in the early afternoon, on Wednesday, 28 April 2021. The Three Kings is still closed. The St James’ Church is under scaffoldings, but a filming on Clerkenwell Green is happening!
Unfortunately, no signs of Tom Burke or Holliday Grainger. Even the location at Denmark Street did not prove productive.
The Novel ‘The Evening and the Morning’ has been nominated for British Book of the Year 2021, one of our customers has kindly provided a review of the book.
Check out our blog to read Ben’s review…
‘Ken Follett is once again on fine form in this prequel to “Pillars of the Earth” part of his Kingsbridge Series. It is 997 ,The world is a violent place were power rules.
A Viking raid in South West England forces Edgar and his family to relocate to Hamlet Deng’s Ferry. Edgar discovers he has a talent for building things, the plot centre’s around him and his friendship with a Norman noble woman Ragna (who is locked in a loveless marriage with the local Lord Wilf ), a priest Aldred and their dealings with Wilf’s brother, a scheming and ruthless bishop, Wynstan.
Follett meticulously researches his books, for example in his previous novel – Pillars of the Earth – he spent two days or more in each Cathedral whilst researching it.
The story in “The Evening and the Morning” takes place over ten years. It does not reach the standard of “Pillars of the Earth” which takes place over decades. It is however a page turner and one can identify with the main characters. The seeds and structure that readers love of the later books in the series are set out in this book. The book also works as a standalone novel.
I would give it 3.5/5’
Have you read ‘The Evening and the Morning’, let us know what you thought down below…
Follett’s novel is also available to borrow from our catalogue –
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo reviewed by Anton from Victoria Library!
Pedro Páramo is a short book (less than 150 pages), but it is a very important book.
Published in 1955 it is a precursor of the “magic realism” movement so important in latin-american literature and is cited as an important influence by authors such as García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes or Jorge Luis Borges. The author, Juan Rulfo is admired by writers all around the world, from Susan Sontag or Günter Grass to Gao Xingjian or Kenzaburo Oe.
In the beginning of the book we follow Juan Preciado, who promises her mother on her deathbed to travel back to her childhood town of Comala and look for his father (“Pedro Páramo” hence the title).
Comala is a kind of purgatory, a place where the present and the past mix, the people that we meet there are mostly ghosts from the past of the town when it was a lively place and not the dusty desert that it has become. Through their voices we hear the story of Pedro Páramo, or Don Pedro as he was known at the time. He was a successful landowner who would always get what he wanted through money, intimidation or violence. But he was also an unhappy man, unable to have enjoyment or connect with others. We find that he had one true love in his life, Susana San Juan, which was his childhood sweetheart but then moved away from Comala. When Susana returns to the town as a widow Pedro is determined to “get her” one way or another…spoiler ahead…it doesn’t end well.
Rulfo’s prose is mostly straightforward but this is a complex work; the fragmentary perspective defines the book, going from first person to third person, from the present to the past. The story becomes complicated with many voices interrupting the main narrative to tell their little own tales. It’s a book about hopes and dreams, death and redemption.
There aren’t many books quite like this: a really small work but with a large lasting impact in literature throughout the world.
If you would like to borrow a copy from our libraries, use our catalogue to make a reservation:
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is Choose to Challenge. Our Special Collection of Biographies is full of the stories of inspiring and extraordinary women who challenged the norms of the societies they lived in, and improved the lives of their fellow women in vital ways. I have selected three women from very different backgrounds, whose work changed the experience of other women for the better, in three different areas of their lives.
Amelia Bloomer changed the way women dressed. Next time you put on tracksuit bottoms to go for a run (or just to relax on the sofa), spare a thought for Amelia Bloomer. Born in New York, she lived a life that spanned almost the whole of the nineteenth century, becoming the first woman to ever own and edit a newspaper specifically aimed at other women, in 1849. Amongst her lifelong advocacy for women’s rights, she is best remembered for her commitment to the cause of women’s dress reform. Bloomer felt strongly that the restrictive clothing women wore could only impede all aspects of their lives, cause them unnecessary discomfort, and operate as a form of oppression. Well off women were encumbered by elaborately decorative clothing and punishing corsetry. Even poor women were continually hampered by the length of their skirts. It seems amazing now that in the West, trousers for women were not really respectable until the middle of the 20th century, and their previous modes of dress made all kinds of activities from riding bikes to participating in sports to simply running for a (horse drawn) bus impossible. Bloomer championed the idea of loose gathered trousers worn under a shorter dress, allowing women to move more easily – these trousers became known as “bloomers”. A courageous group of like-minded women began to wear them in public, but were often harassed, mocked and even assaulted. But they had begun a century of slow progress towards the time when women could wear trousers without raising an eyebrow, and so be enabled to enjoy the same freedom of movement as men.
Onnie Lee Loganchanged the way women gave birth As Bloomer’s life almost spanned the 19th century, Logan’s did the 20th. In her farming community in Alabama, black women did not have access to clinical maternity care and they were helped to deliver their babies by “granny midwives”, who had no formal training but who were repositories of wisdom passed down for centuries. Logan came from a family where women had been practising as “granny midwives” for generations. Her heritage was both African American and Native American, and when she began to practise midwifery herself, aged 21, she drew on the traditions of both cultures. In 1949 Logan undertook formal training and was licensed by the Board of Health. She was able to give her patients the benefit of a new mixture of modern medical practice and family-centred care based on long experience and first-hand knowledge. These women benefited from as many modern medical safety measures as Logan could provide, while being reassured by the sensitivity of a woman who understood their community and cultural traditions at the deepest level. For a period of half a century, ending in the mid-80s, she is credited with delivering almost every baby born in two black neighbourhoods of Mobile, Alabama. She also delivered the babies of poor white women, and became a beloved figure throughout the community, though her autobiography does not gloss over the virulent racism she encountered. Logan emphasised practices that were still being seen as new and innovative by orthodox midwifery many years later, such as the participation of fathers, the use of relaxation and breathing techniques and the application of oils, and she encouraged women to give birth in different positions rather than flat on their backs, as was the conventional and often damaging expectation. Her autobiography is a fascinating record of a working life that spanned enormous changes – an unsentimental “Call the Midwife” of the Deep South, and a testament to an extraordinarily humane and expert woman.
Caroline Norton changed women’s rights in marriage. Norton left her unhappy marriage in 1836, and her husband sued her friend, the Prime Minister and future close confidante of Queen Victoria Lord Melbourne for adultery, involving all of them in an enormous scandal. Although he lost his case, he refused to divorce Lady Norton, and refused to let her see her sons. At a time when women who left their husbands were generally condemned and when it was perfectly legal for a man to beat his wife, Norton campaigned tirelessly to change the law relating to custody, divorce and property (married women were not allowed to legally own any property until 1870, when an Act of Parliament Norton had campaigned for was passed). A new biography of this courageous woman by Antonia Fraser will be published in May, and we have a clutch of books in our collection from Diane Atkinson’s excellent biography of 2012, to books from the 1940s and 1960s (see the cover illustration so characteristic of that period) – and Norton also makes an appearance in some sumptuous Edwardian collected biographies of “Queens of Beauty” and “Famous Women of Wit and Beauty”, where her celebrated beauty is recorded in wonderful engraved illustrations.
Check out our monthly podcast BioEpic, where we delve into the lives of fascinating people through our Special Collection of Biographies. Available on Anchor, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Breaker.
This week Michaela from Church Street Library is reviewing The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.
Over to Michaela…
The Pulitzer prize winning novel of 2020 set in the 1960’s tells the story of Elwood living in Florida with his grandmother. Elwood’s parent had up and left one night leaving her to raise him on her own. Elwood was a very naïve young man who after listening to the recording of Martin Luther King Jr took his words to heart. Working hard from a young age all this was about to change.
About to enrol in college and having been an exemplary pupil, one error on his part has forced him to end up inside the Nickel Academy for boys. Here is freedom is taken away from him and he forced to see how the boys are segregated according to their colour and how there is little respect for the boys.
His friendship with Turner is something that the book evolves around and both boys make a life changing decision which will change their lives.
A rich vibrant book that makes you sit back and realise in many places’ life has not changed.
In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor…
Over to Fiona…
This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship. Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace. The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up. While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience. We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.
It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.
It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today. At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.
This book is available in our library using our Select and Collect service!
This Week’s Book of the Week is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go is the brave and fantastical story by British Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a backdrop of Dystopian 1990s London, we meet three curious and challenging students; Cathy, Ruth and Tommy. They are seemingly ordinary citizens; but have been bred to “provide” and “donate” themselves to the rest of society, and to certain extents quite fatally. For this is a world where Ruth and her peers aren’t just students, but human clones in a world where cloning is state-sanctioned. The three students live their unconventional lives trying to forge happiness out of the complexities of adolescence, human biology and social injustice. Ishiguro writes this book with a delicate level of despair but touches thoughtfully around issues around LGBTQ+, ideas of community and concepts around scientific progress. An elegantly written story with depth and intrigue. Well worth a read!
Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award and for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award! Also a Major Motion Picture!
Download this book today with your library card at:
This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural….
Over to Sara to tell us more!
I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.
Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love!
The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale.
I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core.
If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here
Here is our list of the Top Ten Most Requested Books from 2020 from both Westminster Libraries and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries. It has been fascinating to see what all of our users have been borrowing and we thought you might too.
We also found it interesting that “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, which is ninth on this list, is at currently the most requested book so far in 2021 which is great news for non- fiction and its increasing popularity.
So here is our list of “Ten most requested books of 2020”.
“Trio : a novel” written by William Boyd (Viking)
1968, on a film set in Brighton, three characters’ lives are explored during this tumultuous time. A fascinating novel about lives spiralling out of control and the measures required to right them.
“A Promised Land written” by Barack Obama (Viking)
In this highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama relates his journey from a young man in search of his identity to the highest office in the free world. We gain insight to his experiences of domestic and international politics. What went on behind the closed doors of the Oval office, White House Situation Room and beyond. How being the first President of the United States of America of African – American descent and the expectations that went alongside and more.
An extraordinary, intimate and introspective account from the president who allowed us to believe in the power of democracy.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” written by J.K.Rowling (Bloomsbury)
Set during Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts, it explores the past of his nemesis, Lord Voldemort and Harry’s final battle alongside his headmaster and mentor Albus.
“The Sentinel” written by Lee Child/Andrew Child (Bantam Press)
In the 25th Jack Reacher novel, it is a new dawn for our hero where he finds himself in a no-name town in Nashville, Tennessee stepping in to right the wrongs done to a band of musicians. Packed with action, fresh and perfectly plotted.
“V2” written by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)
A Sunday Times Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year:
An immersive thriller set against a tense historical background. In 1944,Rudi Graf has help create the world’s most sophisticated weapon, the V2 ballistic missile and is ordered by Hitler to fire these at London in vengeance. Second World War buffs will thoroughly enjoy V2.
“Girl, Woman, Other” written by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin)
Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2020 and Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019.
This novel follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters, mostly women, black and British. They relate their stories across country and through the years. Generations of women and the people they have loved and unloved. Heart breaking, hilarious and honest.
“Troubled Blood” written by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)
Troubled blood is the next thrilling instalment in the highly acclaimed bestselling series featuring Comoran strike and Robin Ellacott.
A mix of supernatural eeriness and head-scratching mystery with a juicy whodunnit at its core.
“Hamnet” written by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)
The winner of the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2020, Hamnet is an emotionally beautiful work of fiction examining the effects of love, death, and grief on family life.
Agnes, Hamnet’s mother is the main character of the book, that focuses on his short life and the aftermath of his death. It explores love, and a marriage once unbreakable almost torn apart by loss, it examines the strong bond between twins, and everyday domestic life that must continue. Hamnet is William Shakespeare’s son, whom one of his most famous works Hamlet is named after.
“Shuggie Bain” written by Douglas Stuart (Picador)
Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart’s debut novel and won the 2020 Booker Prize.
It is a gritty but beautiful novel based in Glasgow in the 1980s. It explores the affects of poverty and addiction and the bond between mother and son. Shuggie Bain, the main protagonist of the novel, is a fussy and snobbish boy, and is picked on by the miners kids for being different, but he believes, and hopes that if he tries hard to be normal like the other boys, he can help his mother break her addiction and leave the mining town far behind them.
“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (Viking)
Described as clever, moving and highly funny, this murder mystery has broken many records this year, as well as being the most requested book of 2020 in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries!
Set in a retirement village, a group of elderly residents meet up weekly to examine unsolved murders. When a fresh murder occurs on their very own doorstep, The Thursday Murder Club cannot help but get involved and see if they can crack the case. With plenty of humour, this whodunnit is in the same vein as Agatha Christie, and with plenty of high-jinks, it is the start of a wonderful new series.
This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami. What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.
The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’
Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.
If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.
A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.